Minecraft is a game that has grabbed the attention of creative and technology focused students everywhere. And maybe without knowing it, these engaged students are learning to code.
Minecraft is a game that has grabbed the attention of creative and technology focused students everywhere. And maybe without knowing it, these engaged students are learning to code in both English and now te reo Maori.
Simply put Minecraft is like Lego, where building blocks are used to create 3D designs, the only difference is, is that Minecraft is played on the computer.
Minecraft in the classroom
GCSN contacted three technology teachers from Methven Primary to learn about their experiences of implementing Minecraft into the classroom, and how the learning experience worked while using the programme.
Our three teachers straight away said that “kids love Minecraft” and where looking at how they can use the programme while still giving students a learning experience. By shifting their perspective of Minecraft as a game to a tool for learning, helped them to create a safe play-based learning environment that both evolved during the project and developed skills in creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving.
Blending these real-life skills with academic outcomes and technology, gives students opportunities for future careers and industries.
My group tackled the untimely death of Tutankhamun, a 2000-odd year old whodunnit. It started out as a literacy focus, but as the kids got more involved it morphed into Social Studies, Maths and many more. Using Minecraft, some kids decided to build the tomb of Tutankhamun as if they were the tomb-builders of the time, and some decided to replicate the tomb. They used chalkboards (a feature in Minecraft) to display their information. Those students that wanted to be the tomb builders of the time had an absolute blast thinking of creative ways to thwart any would-be grave robbers. They worked together to promote collaboration and the results were amazing – such great problem solving. In Minecraft you are somewhat limited by the blocks provided, so the kids had to problem solve and think of creative ways to use them to show what they had learned and how they would booby-trap Tutankhamun’s tomb.
Cross curricular, teacher facilitation and real world skills
We see Minecraft as a tool where the students can showcase skills such as; creativity, collaboration and innovation, rather than just letting them roam freely.
One of the great things about Minecraft for Education is that I facilitate the world, I can see what they are doing and shut everything down when needed. It has also been a great way to show our learners that what you may do on Minecraft can be the same in real life. For example; if you blow up or destroy someone’s creation on Minecraft, would you scribble over their book or rip it up?
Minecraft gives opportunities to integrate many learning areas and 21CLD skills without the students actually realising. E.g. social skills, collaboration, reading, summarising, spatial awareness, problem solving, communication, critical thinking, writing etc.
I am definitely not an expert on Minecraft, our learners are the experts, but I try to keep up and have some kind of understanding of the lingo and have enough skills to ensure I don’t damage any creations as I virtually look around.
Authentic Learning experience
From my perspective – I was definitely a sceptic. I know the kids liked “playing” in Minecraft and had all sorts of fun spawning things, but I couldn’t get my head around using it authentically. Then…we did an inquiry into Unsolved Mysteries and my team of students were looking at the Loch Ness monster. I had told them at the start that they needed to have a digital “something” to share at the end. Our literacy focus was on Summarising & Sentences. We followed our Inquiry Process and found all the info we needed. We then sat down to decide on our best digital outcome. We had a whole range, but Minecraft was the most popular. I was blown away by what they created and how quickly they did it. If I had asked them to type up their findings in a document, I am sure it would have taken longer. So, to me, we don’t “do Minecraft”, it is a tool to share or create learning. The soft skills e.g. collaboration, that sit alongside it, are fantastic and authentic.
Te Ao Maori perspective
Microsoft has released three Minecraft tutorials in te reo Maori to date, the latest being Voyage Aquatic at the 2018 Hour of Code.
With more students having access to Minecraft in te reo, it will make way for other technologies and more Minecraft games to also be written in te reo. This will expand the language further into the NZ culture and give it the place it deserves.
The release of Minecraft in te reo Maori makes technology more accessible to students both learning and speaking te reo in their school and home life. It paves the way for learning opportunities in technology, opening up doors that may not have been open before. Leading pathways in computer design, technology, web development and integrating technology into other industries.
Signing up to Minecraft
The Ministry of Education and Microsoft are bringing M:EE to New Zealand schools for free.
To sign up schools will need a licence which can be obtained by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org and asking for a “M365 A3 licenses with Minecraft:EE”. Samuel McNeill gives support in this article on how to do this.
With your licence, sign up to M:EE via the official website here or access it through the schools Office 365 programme. If the school uses GSuite as their main online platform for student management but still want to access Minecraft, this tutorial at SamuelMcNeill.com will help students access the programme.
Once signed up, students will be able to access Minecraft in a safe environment, be under the teacher’s direction and be monitored while the students play and learn.
To learn more about setting up Minecraft for your school visit the Education NZ website.
GCSN would like to acknowledge Keryn Hooker, Adele Warburton and Kelsie Laing for the contribution to this article.
Keryn Hooker – twitter
Adele Warburton - twitter
Kelsie Laing - twitter